While Toronto City Council prepares to vote for the “hybrid” or “remove” option for the Gardiner Expressway next week, more councillors, columnists and Torontonians are voicing their opinions in the headlines and across social media as each day passes.
But what do the engineers think? That’s what OSPE and the West and East Toronto PEO Chapters wanted to know when hosting ‘The Future of the Gardiner Expressway’ on May 27, a panel discussion organized to examine the unique perspectives of engineers and other major players on the issue.
More than 100 engineers came to the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute to voice their point of view, after listening to perspectives from Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, Michael Meschino, P.Eng., principal with Entuitive and Dr. Geoff Fernie, P.Eng., biomedical engineer and director of research at the Rehab Institute.
Minnan-Wong advocated for the “hybrid” option, which also has the support of Mayor John Tory. This alternative would see the Gardiner Expressway re-decked with new ramps and connect to the Don Valley Parkway. Minnan-Wong passionately spoke of his firm belief that “hybrid” was the only option that would not lead to increased traffic congestion.
The other option that will be voted on by City Council is to “remove” the elevated portion of the Gardiner east of Jarvis Street. Unfortunately a speaker advocating this option was not available for the discussion. Nonetheless, many in the audience favoured this approach.
Meschino, a civil engineer, presented arguments in favour of a tunnel option which would connect the remaining parts of the Gardiner Expressway to the Don Valley Parkway. He conceded that it was the most expensive option, which explains why it has not been brought forth to Council for consideration. However, Meschino said that it would also allow for the possible extension of the tunnel through the downtown core in the future. In his opinion, this aspect makes it more appealing than either of the “remove” or “hybrid” options.
Dr. Fernie did not advocate for any particular option, but spoke passionately about the importance of properly considering the needs of pedestrians. He specifically highlighted the need to consider the mobility of an aging population, as well as weather-related aspects like the harsh winter conditions we face as Ontarians, and the impact that has on pedestrian traffic flow in the city.
When the floor was opened to comments and questions, a wide range of opinions were offered and a simple hand count of preferences revealed no consensus between the two options before Council.
However, many comments pertained to design considerations such as ensuring that one criteria should be which option best connects with the elevated portion of the Gardiner going west from Jarvis. Engineers identified that a critical need, no matter what decision Toronto City Council makes, is to base design and development on verified and quantified evidence.
OSPE would like to thank everyone who came out to the event with such short notice. Although the future of the Gardiner is not yet clear, we will provide recommendations to Toronto City Council based on engineering evidence and perspectives, no matter what option is chosen.
Tell us what you think!
Photo credit: Photo of the Gardiner by George Socka, 2009.